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Beyond the Bale : September 2015
ADIDAS Track and field athlete Jesse Owens broke four world records in one day in 1936 dressed head-to-toe in natural fibres. American Major League baseballing great Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth's record of 714 home runs, wearing wool. Polar explorer Ernest Shackleton and his team battled Antarctica during his infamous 1914-17 expedition wearing wool. These are three of the world's greatest sporting achievements that were referred to by adidas Senior Director Running Apparel and Customization Craig Vanderoef during his presentation at the International Wool Textile Organisation (IWTO) Congress held in China in May, and according to Mr Vanderoef, wool's history on the sporting and outdoor fields of yesteryear is well- placed to make a return. "We've spent the better part of six decades trying to come up with synthetic materials that would mimic what the body already does," Mr Vanderoef said. "We've spent six decades looking for a fabric that moves RUNNING WITH WOOL moisture well, that didn't get heavier as you performed, that stretched and moved with the body. We've been looking for wool. We have spent 60 years trying to be better than something that already existed." So positive was Mr Vanderoef about wool's rightful place in sports and outdoor apparel that delegates left the conference even more confident about a resurgence of wool. As one of the world's leading sports brands, adidas prides itself on technical innovation. In the past 12 months adidas has launched a range of seamless wool-blend T-shirts, such as the Wool Primeknit Tee. While championing wool's natural benefits, such as moisture management, the garment's innovative seamless design creates a smooth, slim fit that moves easily on the body. But wool is not just an apparel story. In February, adidas launched the Ultra Boost running shoe, with a fully knit and engineered upper, which adidas said delivered your 'greatest run ever' and magazine after magazine agreed. Mr Vanderoef asked rhetorically: How can adidas make the 'greatest run ever' better? The answer: By using wool. "In the Fall of 2015 we will offer the first fully knit wool version of this shoe. It is beautiful. There's a value to it that everyone sees. But what this shoe does that the synthetic shoe doesn't is odour control and allows for thermo-regulation. It's your greatest run ever made better by wool." According to Mr Vanderoef, it's not only wool's natural properties that make it the ideal fibre for athletes, no matter their level of performance: it's the fibre's authenticity, the story of wool and its long- lasting performance. FAST FACTS • Wool's future in performance apparel is on track, according to adidas Senior Director Running Apparel and Customization Craig Vanderoef. • Mr Vanderoef's confidence and enthusiasm for wool apparel impressed delegates at the recent IWTO Congress at which he presented. • adidas has already released a Wool Primeknit Tee sports shirt which enhances wool's natural benefits and is innovative in its seamless construction, and will soon release a wool version of its heralded Ultra Boost running shoe. "Today's athlete expects more from a product. They don't expect to wear it just for the 40 minutes to two hours they workout for in a week. They expect to wear it for that time and to create an authenticity of athleticism on the high street." adidas sub-brand Mitchell & Ness sells a Hank Aaron Authentic Jersey for US$300. The wool flannel jersey, according to Mr Vanderoef, merits this price because "the value and performance of wool has not changed over time". "This jersey is being sold to inner-city kids; it's not bought by adult fans that sat in the stands in the 1970s. No one buying it even saw Hank Aaron play, but this wool jersey gives the opportunity to understand the athlete both on the field and off. These are being worn by the guy who wants to be authentic, and the fabric he finds authenticity in is wool." For adidas, weaving the best product innovations of the past with technical enhancements is all part of the job. "Wool has been a part of sport performance since we have had sport, and its tradition of performance will continue. We have the ability to change what's next, and that starts with wool." And what would the great Jesse Owens think of wool's triumphant return to the sports arena? "Jesse would be amazed, not surprised. Pre- 1960, wool was not thought of as a problem; pre-1960 wool is fantastic. It's what we wear. It's beautiful Merino." Lindsey Calla of the 'Calla in Motion' blog wearing an adidas Merino wool t-shirt in the Californian desert. PHOTO: Marianna Massey